2011 will be remembered as one of the most eventful years in the history of Indian cricket. Team saw the highs and lows of equal proportion. Number one rankings in test Cricket and the triumph in the 50 overs World Cup brought them the comparisons from the best world had seen. Winning a World Cup and being Number One in Test Cricket at the same time is no mean achievement.
However, India’s tour to England painted a grim picture of what was lying ahead. Team was thrashed in every match they played on the tour.
When the team travelled to Australia at the end of the year it was anticipated as the one that will turn the tables for them. Yet again the team was slaughtered this time by the might of Aussies.
The only positive team gained was the emergence of Virat Kohli, the perennial controversy child of Indian Cricket. He is typical modern day Cricketer. Stylishly done hair, flaunting tattoos and the perfect dressing sense makes him a style icon but when on Cricket field he play his game passionately and is not afraid of being over the top with his celebrations.
Before the tour started Kohli was still finding the ways to replicate his limited overs success in the longer format.
As the series progressed India’s struggle augmented. Kohli too failed to make a score of any significance. Towards the end of second day of second test at SCG, Australia was totally in control. India, already low on confidence were further demoralized by brilliant centuries from Clarke and Ponting. Australian crowd known for eccentric behavior were totally behind their team. It was at that time when Kohli guarding the boundary was seen gesturing the crowd with his middle finger.
The incident was reported as major story in all the national dailies next morning. Former players criticized Kohli and his behavior was termed as disgraceful. He was fined 50 % of his match fees.
It was not the first time when he found himself in the middle of something outrageous. He has been often leveled as temperamental. His over the top celebration after winning the Under-19 World Cup was well documented. Constant use of swear words and wild celebrations on Cricket field earned him a reputation of bad boy of Indian Cricket.
And again, later in the same series he had an on field altercation with number of Australian players that did nothing but enhanced his bad boy image. However, as the series the approached its finale Kohli started to find his mojo. After top scoring in both the innings at Perth, he hit his first test century at Adelaide Oval in the last test.
It was truly a coming of age of Virat Kohli- The Batsman! It came at a time when all the stalwarts in team fell apart. He was the only Indian to score a century in the series. It definitely helped him gain few admirers. Later in the one day series he went on to play one of the most astonishing innings of all time when he smacked Sri Lanka bowlers to all part of ground in 86 balls-131 runs innings.
Virat Kohli is one of those players who are immensely passionate about their game. At times he looks too animated to be a top class player. But then there are top players around the globe from different sports who are as animated as he is.
Kohli often finds it difficult to keep his emotions in check. He never minds baring them in public. When asked about his constant use of cuss words on Cricket field on one of the talk shows, he diligently said, “I say those words to myself and not to anyone else”.
In the early 90’s when India was falling apart as a nation they needed a hero. A hero they can identify with. And they found one in Sachin Tendulkar. He was every bit a person a middle class Indian can relate too.
Move forward to 2013, twenty years later, India is a completely transformed nation. Not only it is one of the fastest growing economies (though the current GDP growth rate is hovering around only 5%) but it is also one of the youngest nations in world. System value of an average Indian has changed. He is independent, assertive and don’t mind taking bold decisions.
Kohli is no Tendulkar not at least now. He does not unite, he divide opinions. While there are many who admire his style of play other would often talk about his on field behavior. When he found himself in middle of yet another on field spat (with Gautam Gambhir) in IPL this year, he was framed as a villain. Kohli may have been wrong there too but the ugly scenes could have been avoided had Gambhir didn’t retaliate.
There have been many other incidents when Kohli’s demeanor was found wanting. On the one hand he criticizes Wankhede crowd for booing him while on the other hand he abuses Chennai Super Kings fans after losing to them. He even condemns opposition tactics for not playing in the spirit of the game.
Kohli is somehow reminiscent of the guy in the college, who would indulge in every possible fight, is highly temperamental and has more stooges than friends yet he would pass the exams with distinction.
For the kids at the grass root level, Kohli is their hero. For a generation that likes to watch Cricket match at Pub, Kohli is the hero.
Barring Sachin Tendulkar, all the batting stalwarts of India are either retired or have lost their forms. Tendulkar won’t be around for long too. He has been the ray of hope for more than two decades. In his absence Kohli would be the flag bearer of Indian batting.
In spite of all the controversies, he remains India’s biggest batting hope. He has already won innumerable One day matches for his country. He has started to find his feet in Test matches too and it won’t be long that he would taste the same success in the longer format too.
His celebrations are over the top, he swears for no reason, he may have a temper issue too yet he is currently India’s biggest hope.
There may be hundreds of things to dislike about Kohli but at the end of the day he does his job. With a bat in his hand, he has the ability to take on the best in the world. Virat Kohli batting in the middle gives fan the confidence.
India has successfully transitioned in one day Cricket and to do the same in test, Kohli will be the key. Next World Cup is less than 500 days away and he would be crucial to India’s success.
Three years back when Anil Kumble said, “I had thought hard before calling Kohli the best under-22 player in international Cricket”, even he would have not thought that Kohli would come such a long way.
With all the talent in world, time on his side and brilliant start to his career, Kohli stands a very good chance to end his career being one of the greatest batmen of all time.
With time, he should be able to curb the rage and anger in his demeanor. Till then he may remain flawed but he would continue to be a hero for giving his best and bringing glory to his country.
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